Sharon Van Etten on Tramp & her upgraded band
There's been a lot of talk about Sharon Van Etten lately, and it's deserved. Her third album, Tramp, features indie music powerhouses like Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon, Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak, Beirut's Zach Condon, Aaron Dessner of the National, and Van Etten, who used to be better known as a Brooklyn publicist for Ba Da Bing Records, but has garnered a following with a voice all her own.
The 30-year-old New Jersey native's drinking coffee in her Ditmas Park apartment when Gimme Noise calls.
She good-naturedly runs through her well-trod biography of open mic-ing and running an all-ages venue in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, high school choirs, studying music production, learning guitar, and filling her versatile catalog.
Before Tramp, there was the pared-down simplicity of 2009's Because I Was In Love, and the maudlin twang of 2010's Epic. For each, her finest songs sway back and forth between venomous, lonesome ire and glimmering, vulnerable confessions.
"My goal for every record, is that I want it to be different," she says. "My voice can do a lot of things. I felt like Epic I wanted it to be my Fleetwood record. And I called myself out on that many times. I wanted this one (Tramp) to have its own feel."
The feel, in part comes via producer Aaron Dessner and Van Etten combining vast indie Rolodexes for several collaborations -- the highlights include Condon's sweeping vocals on "We Are Fine," and modern indie-classicist Julianna Barwick's imprint on "Kevin's." "It's all people whose voices I think are really distinct, but whose intuition is different from mine," she says.
Aside from enhancing bassist Doug Keith's role, her backing band has a different look with a new drummer, as well as the addition of multi-instrumentalist Heather Woods Broderick, who'll handle bass guitar and keys and cello. With this configuration, Van Etten says, "There'll be a lot more running around on stage and re-working songs; it'll help keep the live shows more fun and interesting and energetic."
Of course, it all comes together with Van Etten's strikingly honest personal narratives that can hit home for just about anyone. Regarding this gift, she remains modest. "I feel like the most natural way for me to write, is from a really honest place," she says. "Then I try to edit things in a way where they're not too personal. I don't want to alienate people, and I want people to relate to it. I'm trying to stray away from my own self on this record. I don't want to be that girl that's reading out of her diary."
Sharon Van Etten plays for a SOLD OUT crowd on Saturday, February 18, at Cedar Cultural Center; 612.338.2674
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